It seems like no poll, big or small, goes uncontested in Pakistan; from election results to census results, someone or the other will alleged irregularities and reject the poll altogether. After the release of the 6th census’ preliminary report – which saw Pakistan’s population climb to 208 million – opposition parties have come out claiming that the process was flawed and the final numbers a result of a conspiracy which aims to give more power to the province of Punjab while ignoring the rest.

These are sufficiently serious accusations, which begs the question; if the opposition knew about this supposed ‘conspiracy’ and was aware of the flawed census process why were no objections raised when the process was underway? In fact, it had been the opposition parties which had hounded the reluctant federal government into conducting the census in the first place, which begs a second question; are these concerns – which are manifesting into demands for all parties conferences and court petitions – valid ones, or are they simply a case of the opposition not liking the result of the census?

Since this is the first we are hearing of irregularities in the census process it is impossible to form any sort of conclusion on the former, but there are compelling arguments for the latter. The two most vocal opponents of the results are the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Mutthida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – both parties whose strongholds are in Sindh. It is in Sindh that the most dramatic change in demographics has been observed; it is the most urbanised province in the country with almost half of its population living in the city of Karachi. If constituencies are remade according to the new statistics, rural Punjab would lose out in in favour of urban Karachi, which makes for a much more competitive election in the Sindh Assembly.

Other claims by the opposition – such as the reduction of Sindh population by 10 million and the increase in Punjab population by 10 million – at the moment remain assertions without any proof. As do claims by the Awami National Party (ANP) leader Bushra Gohar about the inaccurate representation of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) population.

This is not to say that the census was a perfect exercise and that the numbers presented are totally accurate; but making a jump from irregularities to a state level conspiracy is a big one. This was the first census after nearly 20 years – none of us have any reference points and most of us are bound to be taken aback.